Love & Submission in Marriage
By Pastor Bill Daniels
A Husband's Love
I suppose we're all familiar with God's command to wives to "submit yourselves unto your own husbands", found in Ephesians 5:22. Not one we gentlemen tend to forget easily perhaps? But many a fine fellow is likely less familiar with the command of God directed our way within the same context – "husbands, love your wives" (Ephesians 5:25). And though we might insist that we were aware of that one too, I'm wondering how many of us have ever seriously considered what it really means. Perhaps we've made many a mental application of our wife's divine decree and have left our own quite unexplored?
A Love That Is Sacrificial
God's word of command to us is "love", and the Greek word behind it is agape - a word found six times in the eight verses of Ephesians 5:25-33. Such a major Bible word of absolutely mountainous importance!! To love with agape love means to have a preference for, wish well to, or earnestly regard the welfare of another. This is a love that has made the decision to desire and actively seek the very best for the other, regardless of returns. In issuing this command to a man (yes, this love is commanded of us in Eph. 5:25) the Lord is not requiring anything of us that He has not already mandated. Christ's pivotal, summary command concerning others and issued to all is,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39).
The command word is the same, agape. And you have no closer "neighbour" than that one who sleeps beside you.
One of the real values of this Ephesians passage before us is the descriptive comparisons given, which help us visualize what this agape love looks like, and lift it to the very highest level. Yes, the Lord has indeed explained to the wives, in vs. 22 of Ephesians 5, that they are to be in subjection to their husbands. But He does not indicate that the husband is to treat his wife as a lowly subject. And so, with an eye to the possibility of a husband abusing his God-given headship, lording it over his wife, and in his selfishness seeking to turn her submission into servile bondage, the Lord describes the love of the husband in clear terms. It is to be Christ-like. It is to be patterned after God's own love. It is to be a self-forgetful and self-sacrificing love, even unto death. From both sides, this love-submission relationship between husband and wife is to be a complete giving of self.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25).
Do you see? Agape love gives! It doesn’t take or use. It doesn't weave submission into a doormat. It is sacrificial! This is the primary characteristic of this God-like love. Here is the chief measure of a man’s true love for his wife. While the wife is to completely give herself to her husband, the husband is to completely give himself for his wife. It would seem likely that if a husband should love his wife in this way and to this extent, he wouldn't find much trouble securing her submission.
The difference in husbanding is like the difference in shepherding. It's like the difference between the good shepherd of John 10, "who giveth his life for the sheep", and the hireling, who "fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep". A good shepherd-husband is not only willing to forfeit what he might consider his right to pleasure and happiness (the motive behind mid-life madness and many a divorce), he's willing to lose his very life for the object of his care. Shall a man then try to find in another woman what he reckons he can't find in his wife? I suppose if he's a hireling and no good shepherd he might!
Young David was a good shepherd. When keeping his father's sheep, a lion and a bear came, threatening the safety of the flock (I Samuel 17:34-37). And we read that David risked his own life in killing these great beasts, out of faithfulness to his father and out of care for the sheep. And David's sacrificial faithfulness and dependence on the Lord in that smaller arena of his father's few sheep is what prepared him for his entrance into the greater arena of Goliath's challenge, ushering in the golden age of the nation of Israel under King David's good leadership.
Paul made the point in I Corinthians 13 that, "love seeketh not its own". Agape love is not given to its own pleasure or fulfillment. It's not given if anything. It's just given!! This love dies to self or selfish desire. There is a dying to self at the moment of salvation, when we die to our own way and to our own light view of sin. And there is a dying to self at surrender to Christ's lordship. And with this vital moment of absolute surrender, the Lord quickly brings us to the daily application of death to self - the daily death to self that is the very expression of biblical, agape love. Here is the stuff of good leadership, and good shepherding, and good husbanding (and good wifing).
In our morning services we recently considered how the Lord dealt with Job in the closing chapters of the book of Job. The Lord, having brought Job to complete surrender to Himself in the beginning verses of chapter 42 of his book, immediately called upon Job to plead in behalf of his antagonists (Job 42:8-10). This must have been a bit of an irksome task for Job, since it would seem a good deal of bitterness had developed between Job and his counselor "friends". Yet, having been made right with God, would Job be made right with man also? The Lord wants both, do you see? You really cannot have one without the other. If I would be right with God, I will be right with man! If Job had refused God's instruction to deny his own sour feelings and serve and pray for his friends, his response would have constituted a, "No, Lord!" Job would have immediately lost the joy of that newfound fellowship with the Lord. To refuse to live rightly with people is to refuse to walk rightly with the Lord. The two go hand-in-hand. This surely is the meaning of I Peter 3:7;
"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
If you are not living in peace with your wife, gentlemen, you are at odds with the Lord also, and it's doubtful whether your prayers are getting through.
Consider Ephesians 4:29-32 in the same vein. The grieving of the Holy Spirit, forbidden there in vs. 30, has everything to do with the bitter feelings and malicious words toward others discussed around that verse. Have a careful look at the immediate context fore and aft.
Can we not safely conclude that the man who truly desires to walk in fellowship with his God will get right with his wife? You misuse and break fellowship with the one and you will certainly break fellowship with the other! And keeping these relationships right will involve self-denial on a daily basis. It will involve dying to my cherished rights and wounded pride and hurt feelings, even as Job had to do. Yet, isn't such self-denial and sacrificial giving the way God expressed His love for us?
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (John 3:16)
He loved in such a sacrificial way when there were no vows - no previous commitments. He did not sacrificially love because He had to, but out of His own free will. This is the way genuine agape love expresses itself, extending beyond just wife and family to all. Consider John's words;
"This is my commandment, that ye love [agape] one another, as I have loved you.Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13).
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16).
There is just no place in the Christian life for not getting along with your brother in Christ! Just as there is no allowance in the committed Christian life for not getting along with your wife.
Compare I Corinthians 6:1-8, where we see that death to self means not demanding my own way, not defending myself, not having to get even, but rather taking wrong - "why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
In the home there is no place for bitterness or brutality, whether physical or emotional, whether toward wife or children or anybody. True love is willing to endure a great deal of personal loss or disappointment or discomfort in order to preserve the opportunity to do good to the other. I'm afraid we are often far more willing to execute justice than we are to exercise grace. How I praise God that He's not like us in this regard!
And in the home as well as in the church, there is no place for the cop-out, "Yeah, well I'm not Jesus!" Such a reply is just a round-about, less-than-clever way of saying, "No, Lord! I won't die to myself in making things right with that one!" But God has given command to us, men!
A Love That Is Sanctifying
In Ephesians 5:25-33 the Lord speaks to husbands of their responsibility to their wives. As we've considered, the Lord commands in vs. 25, "Husbands, love your wives." He then goes on to illustrate what that love looks like through the example of Christ's love for the church. As Christ loves the church, in the same way ought men to love their wives - sacrificially. Agape love has no time for seeking "its own", being consumed instead with actively seeking the very best for others.
Then, in vs. 26 & 27, we're told that a man's love for his wife is to be a sanctifying love. Following on the comparison of Christ's love for the church and a husband's love for his wife, the Lord says,
"That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
In vs. 25 we saw what Christ did for the church in the past. Now we discover His present purpose and effort in her behalf. Notice the active words of perfecting - "sanctify", "cleanse", "washing", "glorious", no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, "holy", "without blemish". And as Christ's purpose for His bride (the church) is her sanctification and cleansing, the Lord is indicating here that so ought to be a man's purpose for his wife – her moral and spiritual perfection.
To "sanctify" means to make holy. Not a difficult concept to understand. To be holy simply means to be set apart - to be completely reserved for the Lord. Nothing of my way. All of His way, down to the smallest detail. Not the tiniest bit of holding out against His way or ignoring His will in order to allow for my own. No! To be holy is to be wholly set apart for Him, as His own. If ever there is a single word that should be written as a title over the life of every believer, it is the word "His". His word, His will, His way! As we sail the little ship of our existence through the troubled waters of this life, inscribed in bold letters on the bow must be "H-I-S" (or perhaps "H-M-S" - "His Majesty's Soul"). It's where the Lord finally brought Job in that last chapter of his book. It's where the Lord is bringing us, and will ultimately bring us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Here is the place to which the husband should be intent upon bringing his wife. Not to complete surrender to the husband's will, but to complete surrender to the Lord's will. And should this be found true in her, she'll have no problem with submitting to her husband as well.
We ought to pray that way for our wives, gentlemen. We ought to work and pray to that end. We must be mindful of her spiritual growth, and of the input of the Word of God into her heart. To put it in very practical terms, we should see to her regular attendance in a Bible believing church, where committed believers meet to consider God's Word. Some of us are slack in this matter of church attendance. Don't you leave your wife at home! Don't you leave your children at home! "Well, she's busy", you say? I think it just depends on how important it is to you, husband. I say you, for it is a matter of how important it is to you, my friend! "But she doesn't want to come." Ah but here's where good leadership shows itself. Tell her you'll buy her an ice cream on the way home. Yes, I'm being silly now - but tell me, have you ever seriously expressed to your wife how important this is to you? Has her spiritual development ever really been a matter of importance to you? – as important to you as it is to God? Maybe it needs to become an earnest imperative in you first, as the God-appointed leader in your home. And then you collect her purse and take her lovingly but firmly by the hand and lead her to church. "Well, unfortunately it's a school night. She needs to stay home with the kids so they can get their rest." Is that so? You didn’t seem to worry about that at that midweek braai last week. It has not adversely affected our own children to be in church for evening services over the years. What they've perhaps lost in rest, they've gained in an understanding of God's words and ways, and an appreciation for the Lord's songs. "Oh well the kids don't understand the preaching anyway." Let me spell that one for you, B-A-L-O-N-E-Y!! Besides, your wife does understand, and it's not fair on her that she misses the input of the Word of God at church for the sake of the kids.
Numbers 14 relates another circumstance where God's people used their children as an excuse for disobedience. Such an interesting and frightening account! The Lord, through Moses, had led His people to the edge of the land of Canaan, the land He had promised He would give to Israel. His command to them was to go in and take it. Well, they sent twelve spies in to check things out. When these returned, ten of the twelve were convinced that a conquest of the land was impossible. Perhaps in a sense they were right. Without the Lord it might have been quite impossible. Unfortunately those ten spies forgot about the miracle-working God who had brought them that far. Well, to clip a long story short, the people followed the negative perspective of the ten and voted down the proposed invasion. The Lord was greatly angered, for that decision constituted faithlessness and plain ol' disobedience. And here is the Lord's response,
"And the Lord spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against Me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against Me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness" (Numbers 14:26-32).
Do you see? They had said, "Oh but the poor children! They will "be a prey!" They might get hurt in the fighting!" But it was God who had told them to go! They were disobeying God, and using the excuse of danger to the children. And as a result, God's severe judgment fell upon them.
It just depends on how important it is to you, gentlemen - this goal of sanctification in your wife and children. To be sure, it's not going to happen apart from instruction in God's Word in some form. Look again at what Paul says there in Ephesians 5:26;
"That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by the word".
Now some folks foolishly press baptism into this verse, and insist that "the washing of the water" refers to some cleansing effect of water baptism. Only if the rite were performed with a bar of soap I'm afraid. God is referring to His Word here - the cleansing effect of His Word, as if water cleansing the soul. Even as Christ prayed in those last hours with His disciples, "Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17). It is through the ministry of His Word that God does His sanctifying work. So I want my family here in church, hearing and understanding His Word. Not sometimes. All times! And if not here, then some other Bible believing church where they can grow through the Lord's words, taught and applied to their hearts.
An interesting feature in this verse (Eph. 5:26) is the Greek word translated "word" ("with the washing of water by the word"). Rather than the more common Greek word, logos, we find the less common word, rhema, used here. This latter word refers particularly to the spoken word - preaching or the preached word. As Christ said in John, "Now ye are clean through the word [rhema] which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3).
Let me say it again. It is through the ministry of His Word (preaching and teaching) that God accomplishes His sanctifying, cleansing work in us (and in wives and children). "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you". The Word of God, spoken by Christ, recorded as Scripture, preached by men, preached to people, is God's instrument of change and cleansing from the defilement of sin. It is that instrument to probe and convict and stir to repentance and confession - to provoke a soul to get right with God.
If Christ Himself stood before you here this evening, I am confident that He would say the same - "You husbands and fathers see that your families are here for the ministry of the Word. If you would lead wisely in your home, see that your families are consistently under the instruction of God’s Word."
And notice how verse 27 of Ephesians 5 highlights and emphasizes by repetition the same purpose, both from negative and positive perspectives;
"That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Following this same comparison of Christ to the husband and the church to the wife, so ought the husband resolve that his wife be a glorious saint, without stain of sin or sign of spiritual decay. The word translated "glorious" means splendid, or held in highest esteem, or honourable. Yet how many a man busies himself with cutting his wife down through slanderous words spoken behind her back, rather than promoting her honour. How many a man seems to be seeking to show himself greater at her expense, rather than longing to see her esteemed high. "In honour, preferring one another", saith the Lord in Romans12:10.
Marriage is meant to be a place of sanctification and growth for all concerned. And men, we are the ones God holds responsible to see to it. When Christ is truly Lord in our lives, here is the type of longing and leadership He will develop in us. This is the kind of love He will shed abroad in our hearts. And through us He will bless our families. Agape love always enriches. It always builds. It always has the best goal for the other, and strives for it. Selfishness will seek exactly the opposite.
A thought from that beloved book of Proverbs,
"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands" (Prov. 14:1).
Think about it. The wise, who are wise with the wisdom of God, know how to make relationships work. And not only do they know how to make them work, but they know how to make them genuinely beneficial for all concerned. They know how to build their homes, rather than foolishly tearing them down.
May the Lord bring us to love our wives and families with sanctifying love!
A Love That Is Self-Fulfilling
We have been considering what a man's love for his wife is meant to be from Ephesians 5. So far we've explored both the sacrificial nature (vs. 25) and the sanctifying purpose (vs. 26-27) of agape love. Now I want you to see how a man's love for his wife is also self-fulfilling.
In verse 28 of Ephesians 5 we read,
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself."
Paul has been using the figure of the church as Christ's bride. He has made use of Christ's attitude toward the church and His efforts in her behalf to illustrate what a husband's love for his wife ought to be - what a man's efforts and attitude ought to be toward his bride. Then in vs. 28 Paul seems to shift figures. No longer the church as Christ’s bride, but now the church as Christ’s body. Consider vs. 29-30,
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones."
This picture of the church as Christ's body is a very common one in the New Testament. Some examples;
- "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" (I Corinthians 6:15)
- "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (I Corinthians 12:27)
- "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another"
- "... the church, which is His [Christ's] body" (Ephesians 1:22 & 23)
- "And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18)
- "... and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His
body's sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24)
The church is Christ's body. Not "body" in the sense of "group", as a body of people, but in a more corporeal sense of the actual connection of limbs to a body. Clarification is given in vs. 30, "of His flesh, and of His bones." This New Testament teaching that all believers of this age make up the body of Christ –they as the individual members of His body and He as the head - is a puzzling concept indeed. Even as Paul surveyed the mystery of it in vs. 32,
"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
With the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers in this current age in a very new and special way, there has been a remarkable change. The very moment a soul is saved he is now permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and baptized with the Spirit into the body of Christ. A key verse in this regard is I Corinthians 12:13;
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
Every believer, from the moment of salvation, is placed by the Spirit into Christ, as a member of His body. Thus the church (all believers of this current age), which is Christ's bride, is at the same time His own body.
Now look again at Ephesians 5:28;
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself."
My friend, do you grasp the import of what the Lord is saying here? In a sense, He is not using two separate figures. They are one-in-the-same. Christ's bride, the church, is at the same time His own body. More vividly, "of His flesh, and of His bones" (vs. 30). And in a similar way a man's bride has become, as it were, a part of his own body – an extension of his own flesh! Notice vs. 31 (quoting from Genesis 2:24),
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."
From the first marriage it has been so, that there is some mystic union between a man and his wife, which goes far beyond just their physical relations. This mystical connection is indeed pictured in their sexual union, but it's more. When God said, "they two shall be one flesh", He was referring to something far beyond just what happens in bed. They two became as if one body in marriage, one flesh, one organic unity. This same thought is pictured as well in the woman's very creation from a bone taken from Adam's body. Consider Adam's words at Eve's creation,
"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23).
Thus expressing the closeness of this union. "She is of my very flesh!" And there is something of a return to this in marriage.
This same idea is behind Paul's instructions concerning marriage in I Corinthians 7:3-5,
"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency."
The Apostle Paul's discussion in this passage is that of the sexual relationship between a man and his wife. The point is that a man or woman cannot decide to avoid marital relations without the consent of their spouse. One is not free to make such an independent decision in marriage, any more than a Siamese twin could make independent decisions apart from their twin. A married man or woman does not have autonomous power over their body from the moment they said, "I do". They are a unit with their spouse! It is for this cause that divorce is like hooking up two teams of horses to the two ends of a man and shouting "giddyup!" It’s like wrenching Siamese twins apart. It’s taking a mystical unity and ripping it in two!
And it is for this reason that unmarried folks need to be very cautious about who they would consider for a marriage partner, or even who they date. Just because two people (even two Christians) get to know each other and get along with each other does not necessarily mean that they are meant to marry. In fact, as I Corinthians 7 makes clear, some believers are not meant to marry at all. The union of marriage is far more significant than most folks recognize. It is certainly not an institution to be taken lightly or irreverently. Marriage is the mysterious creation of a new unit from two separate individuals.
Now, do you see how in the light the Lord's thrust in Ephesians 5:28-29 a man would be a fool to mistreat his wife? In the mystery of their union with each other in marriage, his abuse of his wife would equal abuse of himself or of his own body. For his wife is the extension of his own body.
"The one loving his own wife is loving himself, for no man (at least no normal man) ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church."
Paul assumes in us a very natural, normal care for our own bodies. Then he presses the point that for a man to nourish and cherish his wife is for him to nourish and cherish himself! To see to your wife's best interests is to see to your own, gentlemen! In marriage, you cannot rightly separate between her interests and your interests. To love your wife is self-fulfilling! To misuse her or to abuse her trust is the height of stupidity! It is self-destruction! Here is the sense of the Lord's words in Proverbs 6:32 as well,
"But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacks understanding [sense]: he that doeth it destroys his own soul."
A man foolish enough to commit adultery is not only cheating on his wife, he's cheating himself! He's slashing at his own soul! For the woman he defrauds is a part of him, "of his flesh and of his bones."
Do you see how a man's love for his wife is not just an obligation commanded of him by the Lord? It's also the only sensible response, because of the nature of his union with her - just as he would be mad to not take care of himself or his own body.
And furthermore, who among us has a perfect body, gentlemen? Yet we still take pretty good care of this old bag-o'-bones, don't we? Should we not therefore show the same tolerant care for our imperfect wife, as the extension of ourselves?
To love her is self-fulfilling! To hurt her is soul-destroying!
Let's bring to a close this brief challenge to we who are men and husbands by reading it again together,
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Eph. 5:28-33).
A Wife’s Submission
We have carefully considered that command word (agape love) and its meaning, given to a man concerning his wife, found and explained in Ephesians 5:25-33. I'm thinking that our task is only half-way done. When the Lord speaks to a marriage, He speaks to a couple - to both partners involved. As we move our eyes back a few verses in this same chapter of Ephesians, we discover a word of command given to the wife concerning her husband as well. Please carefully look with me "into the perfect law of liberty".
Consider Ephesians 5:22-24
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
Indeed, that word of command to her is "submit." Oh my! Isn't that a touchy one in the minds of many in our modern world! When we get to I Peter 3 a little later maybe it will become more evident to you why "submission" has become such a grumpy word in today's society. We do well, however, to resist the temptation to push the guiding hand of the Lord aside in our disagreement, or to redefine words or explain them away. With a heart genuinely desiring to know and do God's will, please honestly consider what God is wanting us to understand on this subject.
Seems like the best place to start is to ensure that we understand the meaning of the word. To submit or to be in subjection is to conform one's will to the will of another. It is an active attitude of servanthood or givenness, expressed so well in those words describing the heart of that virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 for her husband;
"She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life" (Proverbs 31:12).
Submission certainly involves the idea of voluntary cooperation, but true submission goes beyond mere cooperation with the leadership of another. It is an active desire to "do him good", an earnest pursuit of both the knowledge and practice of another's will, the understanding and adoption of his purposes. Even as our attitude toward the Lord, so should a wife be minded toward her husband. For this is the very comparison the Lord repeatedly suggests here,
"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:24).
A wife expresses her submission by seeking out what actions, attitudes, words, habits etc. are pleasing to her husband, and then carefully seeing that these are carried out. To submit is to deny any claim to personal rights. It is to lose our will in the will of another. Christ expressed His subjection to His Father in John 4:34,
"My meat [that which satisfies] is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work."
The truly submissive heart finds fulfillment in conforming its will to the will of the one in authority, in striving to fulfill his purposes.
What then shall we call a wife's white-knuckled grip on her rights? What shall we call her slooooow responses to her husband's leadership? What of her incomplete obedience, her less-than-earnest pursuit of his will, or her little subtle vengeances? What of her (willful) forgetfulness, things done accidentally (on purpose), pursuing her purposes in neglect of his, or things left as she knows he dislikes? It's even quite possible to be doing things for her man while neglecting his expressed will. Whether subtle or blatant, overt or covert, this is rebellion, not only against her husband but against her God. It is the Lord who says,
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (I Samuel 15:23).
Such a heart attitude must be confessed and made right before God and her husband without delay, if a woman would have God’s blessing in her life.
Now the Lord is not simply giving the man a blank check with his wife. As we've already seen, the Lord has a great deal to say to the man as well in this same context. The Lord, in fact, has many more words for the husband than for the wife in Ephesians 5. We have already observed in the previous chapter that the man's authority comes with a good deal of responsibility. But let's be clear and honest with the issue. We do ourselves a great disservice and dishonour the Lord when we do not seek a proper understanding, the Lord's definition, of what true submission is really all about.
Now let's have a look at the results of submission. Look again at that Proverbs 31 passage, describing the virtuous woman. Notice her husband's response to his good wife,
"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil" (Prov. 31:11).
I should think that he would have no need of anything, for he has all that he needs in her! Such a gem excels the value of rubies (Prov. 31:10). She is a veritable "crown to her husband" (Prov. 12:4). And he, with their children, will "arise up, and call her blessed", and praise her (Prov. 31:28). Do you see how, when a man has a truly submissive wife, something happens in him? Trust develops. He can "safely trust in her." He can take his hands off the controls, because he knows that her guiding principle is to do him good, that her purpose is to fulfill his purposes. She is such a continual breath of fresh air to him, as a refreshingly cool drink in the heat of harvest, even as a faithful messenger is described in Proverbs ,
"As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters" (Prov. 25:13).
But alas! How painfully different for the unfortunate man who's wife is not so inclined, with no willing alignment of her purposes with his. Sadly he feels forced to force her, through the laying down of rules and standards. Poor man! For he accomplishes far less in life with half his mind always coping with home. Poor woman! For she has brought sorrow to her husband and restriction upon herself and turmoil into her home.
Now perhaps you think that I'm making too much of this Ephesians passage in discussing this matter of submission. After all, I am a man, and stand to gain by such views, right? Please keep in mind that I have not spared the men in our previous considerations of our home responsibilities. So let me take a moment to chase the biblical prevalence of this principle of a wife's submission to her husband. Let's assure ourselves that we are indeed dealing with a settled principle rather than an isolated proof-text.
When the Lord first announced His intention to make the woman for Adam, He said in Genesis 2:18,
"I will make him an help meet for him."
The word translated "help" means a helper, an aid, a supporter. Is it not true that from the very beginning the purpose of the woman’s creation was to be her husband's fit supporter or helper? Then, when pronouncing judgments in Genesis 3, the Lord said to Eve, "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16). There the Lord entrenched more deeply the roles of husband and wife in marriage.
And consider, as well, the following passages from the New Testament,
- "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man... for the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (I Corinthians 11:3, 8-9).
- "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).
- "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man. . ." (I Timothy 2:12).
- "That they [the older women] may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5).
- "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands. . . For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. . ." (I Peter 3:1, 5-6).
Now let’s go back and examine more closely what the Lord is saying to the wife in Ephesians 5. Again from vs. 22,
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
Would you agree that submission is submission, regardless of the authority figure to which it is rendered? Is there a lesser submission appropriate to an earthly authority and a greater degree of submission appropriate to our heavenly authority? I don’t believe so. Do you see again how the Lord illustrates submission to the husband with our proper attitude toward the Lord? They are the same. As the wife would view her responsibility to the Lord, in the same way she should see herself as responsible to her husband. And the same is true of a child with his parents.
In vs. 23-24 the Lord hammers a couple more nails into that thought, pinning it down rather tightly,
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
But I'm wondering if perhaps the thought rises higher than just a comparison. Do you suppose it possible to read it this way?
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as [an act of submission] unto the Lord."
Submit to your husband as if to the Lord. Look upon that submission to your husband as to the Lord. Do you see? What you are rendering to your husband, you are in fact rendering to the Lord!
I want to show you something. Have a look at the Apostle Paul’s instructions to servants in Titus 2. He says there in vs. 9-10,
"Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again [contradicting]; not purloining [pilfering], but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
Good Christian servanthood adorns God and His Word, like a beautiful ornament gracing His neck. In the same way, bad Christian servanthood blasphemes God, as I Timothy 6:1 affirms,
"Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own master worthy of all honour, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed."
The very same is true of good Christian wifehood and bad Christian wifehood. The principle is the same. We saw earlier from Titus 2 how the Lord, through Paul, encouraged the older women to teach the younger women to be "obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:5).
For a woman to live in submission to her husband is to adorn God and His Word. It is to render service to Him. To refuse to do so, whether subtly or blatantly, is to blaspheme the Lord. Do you see how it is not only about your husband? It is all about your God, and your walk with Him! And do you see how submission is lifted out of mere menial service to the man, to become a service of worship to the Lord? This same principle is true of all of us in our attitude toward authority figures. Note the great emphasis on this same thought in Ephesians 6:5-8,
"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free."
"As unto Christ", "as the servants of Christ", "as to the Lord, and not to men". Do you see the Lord’s emphasis? Look beyond the man to your service of Christ in your submission to the man! So let’s go back and read Ephesians 5:22 this way,
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
In the very same way that you do to the Lord, as a service of submission to the Lord, more than to the man. And may we ever be mindful that nothing done for the Lord will ever go unseen or unrewarded, as Ephesians 6:8 makes so very clear,
"Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord."
Do you believe it? Do you see how looking at this command in this way lifts our response above circumstances? It’s not a service rendered to the husband as much as it is a service rendered to the Lord, regardless of the circumstances - regardless of the husband!
One might say, "But I can't submit to my husband . . ." Wait a minute! Sorry to interrupt, but before you continue, didn't you mean to say, "won't"? "Alright, alright, I won't submit to him, because he doesn't love me!!" Well then submit to the Lord! Serve the Lord, by serving your husband, and regardless of your husband's response to you.
ALWAYS in God's economy those two great concepts, the service of people and the service of the Lord, are hopelessly entwined. Christ's two great central commands concerning love for God and man, found in Matthew 22:37-40, are not just set side by side, but are intertwined like a girl's plaited hair. The more one becomes a genuine servant of God, the more he will become the servant of man. As John agreed, in his first epistle,
"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (I John 4:8).
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments" (I John 5:2).
This is why religious isolationists (monks in their monasteries and hermits in their hideouts), who avoid man in order to "better serve the Lord", are out of touch with the very God they are wanting to touch more closely. The genuine servant of God will express his heart for the Lord by his loving service of man. This is God's way.
So what do we know about a woman who refuses to submit to her husband? Well, she's no servant of God either! In spite of her words. In spite of her earnest, empty assurances to the contrary. And by the same token, what do we know about a man who won't love his wife? He's no lover of God either, no matter how sweetly he croons his praises heavenward.
In serving her husband a wife is serving the Lord. And if she is a sincere servant of the Lord, she will serve her husband as well, that her life might be an ornament of grace upon the One she loves.
Oh Christian wife, give your heart and life in full surrender to the Lord. And then turn your sights upon that man of yours whom God has given to you, and give yourself in full submission to him out of a heart surrendered to the Lord.
And just a passing comment to the unmarried girls. Do you see how there is good reason for you to be very careful about who you choose to marry? Be praying for that man in your future even now, and be praying for God's wisdom in your careful choice.
Consider I Peter 3:1-6
I fear we would leave this vital subject inadequately covered if we did not turn our attention to an understanding of I Peter 3 as well. For there we find encouragement and instruction in the right responses of a believing wife in union with an unsaved or disobedient husband. Let's read it,
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God,
adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement" (I Peter 3:1-6).
"Likewise, ye wives. . .", Peter begins. Why "likewise"? Likewise or similar to what does Peter compare a wife's subjection to her husband? With this first word we're led to reflect upon the context in which we find this passage. A quick scan of surrounding chapters reveals that Peter's main theme in his writing is patient endurance when suffering tribulation. We see this theme displayed immediately before our passage of focus (2:19-23), and immediately following (3:8-9 & 14-17). Do you see the Lord's repeated encouragements toward patient endurance in unfair treatment? And sandwiched in between are these instructive words to a Christian wife with an uncooperative husband. Peter's effort to reinforce her endurance fits the context. The Lord is directing her troubled heart to patient fortitude under difficult circumstances or unfair treatment. "Likewise [in the same way], you wives. . .".
But there is more to that "likewise". Peter has also been applying this theme to those in subordinate roles. In 2:13 the submission of all to government is commanded. In 2:18 the submission of servants to their masters is commanded, and "not only to the good and gentle [masters], but also to the froward [perverse]". And so we find the context to be the patient endurance of unjust treatment in subordinate roles. Thus, in the same way as all to the government and servants to masters, "likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands" (not only to good and gentle husbands, but also to perverse ones - whether peach or sour lemon).
"That if any obey not the word. . .", Peter says. It matters not whether his refusal to obey God's Word is due to an unsaved condition or to a saved backslidden state. For one reason or another this husband's attitude is lined up against what God says in His Word. Please don't miss the obvious indication that a wife is to be in submission to her husband even if he has opted out of spiritual leadership. Did you notice that? In fact, even if he's an unbeliever and disinterested in spiritual things altogether, she is still to submit to him before God. There might perhaps be the temptation in the heart of a saved wife to look down upon the discernment and leadership of her unsaved husband. Perhaps there may be uncertainty whether she should even remain under such an unequal yoke at all. But do you see how the Lord clears the air here of all uncertainty? Not only is she to remain with him, but she is also to remain subject to him. Even under his spiritually stunted leadership? Yes! Incompatibility of religion never necessitates incompatibility in marriage, and never does it justify rebellion within it. The need may arise for her to stand opposed to her husband in the case of clear moral rights and wrongs, but her first desire must always be to walk in submission to him as she would the Lord - to "do him good and not evil all the days of her life".
"That, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [manner of life] of the wives." (I Pet. 3:1)
That word "that" here indicates purpose (in order that). The purpose expressed is that the unsaved or disobedient one might be "won". And when one is won to the Lord, Oh it's a win all the way around!
So the core statement of purpose, extracted from the second part of vs. 1, is but five words - "that. . . they. . . may. . . be won". The noun is "they". The verb phrase is "may be won". There is one modifier of the noun in this verse and three of the verb. Concerning the noun, "they", it is they who "obey not the word". Concerning the verb, "may be won", we first find the modifier "also", implying that the wife is already saved and obedient to the Lord. She's already a winner! Then we find two instructions as to how they may be won; "without the word" and "by the conversation (manner of life) of the wives". One is a negative prohibition and the other a positive encouragement. Are you with me? "Without the word", obviously refers to the wife's words. Seems rather clear, doesn't it? Sans speech! Silent testimony! With mouth shut! Sure, we are all aware (that concerned saved wife included) that the usual way one comes to faith in Christ is through the Word of God, explained, proclaimed, verbalized. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:17,
"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God".
In fact, have a look there at vs. 14 of Roman 10,
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"
"There you have it!" believing wife might say. "My man will never hear unless I proclaim God's truth to him!" Ah but don't stop reading yet. Carry on to the next phrase there in Romans 10, "And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (vs. 15). You are not sent to be your husband’s preacher, wife. The Lord is clarifying in I Pet. 3:1 that with one under authority it is not going to be that usual way, at least with respect to the one over them. The same is true of servants with their unsaved masters. The same is true of children with their unsaved parents. It may perhaps be that your words of witness will be appreciated by that one in authority over you. It's more likely that they will not. So don't push it, certainly never to the point of anger or argument! Do not allow your primary effort toward your unsaved husband to be the witness of your words, if you would be pleasing to the Lord. Please don't talk yourself into thinking that that is the spiritual thing to do. It is not!! "But, how could it ever be an unspiritual thing to speak to one you love about Christ?" When God says “without the word”, that’s when! That's when the commendable becomes condemnable. And God will not bless your disobedience. Especially if your disobedience to the Lord is matched by an unsubmissive attitude toward your husband as well. And it likely will be, for as with one authority, so with another. A man named Ecumenius once said, "Unspoken performance is more powerful than unperformed speaking." Here's the positive side of Peter's instructions to the wife. The negative - "without the word". The positive - "That. . . they. . . may. . . be won by the conversation (manner of life) of the wives."
The King James Version word "conversation", used two times here (vs. 1 & 2), in modern times describes only the idea of communication. But the word carried the meaning of behaviour or manner of life back in the old days. I find it intriguing to note that the Greek word translated "manner of life" here ("conversation" in the KJV) is found thirteen times in the New Testament. Eight of those thirteen occurrences are found in Peter's two small books – twice in II Peter and six times here in I Peter (1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16). Obviously the Lord, through Peter, is placing a great deal of emphasis upon our manner of life, particularly when facing unfair treatment.
As we see in this context, a wife's manner of life is the chief avenue God would use for the winning of her unresponsive husband. In her case God means to win his soul through the eye-gate more than through the ear-gate.
"While they behold your chaste manner of life coupled with fear" (I Pet. 3:2).
And oh how carefully the unsaved watch the conduct of Christians. Depending on your outlook, that truth can either seem a shackle or an opportunity. If there is a genuine, humble, submissive desire in you to live a life pleasing to the Lord in every way, if you are earnestly seeking to walk with Christ in victory, then you're glad for the attention of the unsaved. Their observing eyes are no intimidation or frustration to you. You're glad for the winsome opportunity your life brings to their attention. However, if you're given to indulging your carnality, quite enjoying your sinful responses, then you're going to wish they would mind somebody else's business, aren't you? The point is you can't help it. You can't change things. They're going to be watching anyway when you claim allegiance to Christ. If only for their sake, won't you bow to the Lord in humble surrender to His perfect will? Won't you live for Him and walk with Him, that your life might be a winning example of what a Christian is meant to be? There is certainly a place for giving testimony with the lips. But there is a larger place for giving testimony through the life. Have a look at I Peter 2:12,
"Having your conversation (manner of life) honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation."
Or 3:16 as well,
"Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation [manner of life] in Christ."
Oh let them watch!! By God's grace I'll live for Him, that the world might see my Spirit-wrought good works, and glorify my Father in heaven.
Now let me ask you something. Looking back to the first couple of verses of I Peter 3, what is the primary feature of a wife's winning character displayed there? If her manner of life were compared to a beautiful ring with a cluster of gems, yet with one prominent stone featured in the center, what is that feature stone? Is it not her subjection? The essence of the statement of vs. 1 is, "Wives, submit, that they may be won by the manner of life of the wives". Do you see it? Her submission is the crowning feature of her winning manner of life! (compare vs. 5) The portrayal of her godly character and conduct to follow in Peter's words all serves to enhance and define that main spotlight upon her submissive spirit, both toward her husband and toward the Lord. This is how she exalts Christ before her husband (Titus 2:5). Submission is the mainspring driving a saved wife's winning way! No wonder Satan has so tirelessly endeavoured to vilify this concept of genuine submission in the modern view of marriage! How desperately the evil one seeks to disable a godly wife's main weapon in the spiritual battle for the souls of men. Submission is not some creation of oppressive men, the burden of her miserable lot in life as a woman. Rather, it is a saintly woman's most powerful weapon of warfare in the spiritual battle for the soul of her man.
Then, have a look at I Pet. 3:2,
"While they behold your chaste manner of life [including conversation!] coupled with fear."
A godly wife will strive to be "chaste" in her submission to the Lord and her husband. The word simply means "pure from every fault". Her submission to the Lord will drive her to this. "Pure from every fault", are you hearing? Not a little bit naughty, but pure, perfect! The Lord's saints don't need a touch of the godless or a dash of the outrageous in order to make themselves more interesting or more effective winners. Yet here is an all too common mistake in the thinking and practice of the Christians of our age - esteeming a touch of the impure to be the better part of wisdom. One step backward for two steps forward, or some such godless philosophy. Let's mix in a bit of the world in order to mete out a bit of heaven, they seem to believe. But the holy God of heaven doesn't do mixed drinks, folks!! He doesn't do admixture. In His ears "mixture" is a dirty word. If you can imagine a glass of crystal-clear spring water, with only a few drops of sewage added, your beginning to see things as God does. He wants it all pure, end and means! A sparkling diamond doesn’t need a blackened facet or two to make it more intriguing. Just turn the lights on. That diamond possesses naturally all of the rare attractiveness it needs. Even so the fetching beauty of a pure life - so very rare and attractive indeed - so very different from the unsaved wives around us, who are happy to have a beer and swear with the boys. Who relish the opportunity to slice up the character of the absent. Who love to hate, and are happy to tell you all about it. Who live in the filthy, unreal, mud-puddle depth world of hollow T.V. soaps and vanity magazines. Who enjoy trying to float the boys' boats with revealing dress and flirtatious ways.
Oh be different, you sisters in Christ!!
Dare to be different! Dare to be pure! Be different for the Lord and before your husband. And though pure, never, never, never with a superior attitude! Be holy before him, but never "holier-than-thou".
"While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear." (I Pet. 3:2)
The Greek word translated "fear" here is the same word translated "reverence" over in Ephesians 5:33 - ". . . and the wife see that she reverence her husband." This "fear" speaks of a sincerely respectful reverence of her husband, and of the Lord.
"Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel" (I Pet. 3:3).
Again, we find a negative and a positive. In vs. 3 we see what adorning should not be. In vs. 4, what proper adorning should be. First, God calls us away from a focus on outward adorning - from the worldly, the immodest, the outrageous, the indiscreet, the conspicuous. The concept presented here (and in I Timothy 2) is that the outward appearance should not be that which draws attention to the outward appearance, whether with the overly flashy or fleshy, or with the overly plain. We're not about the business of attention-getting in our earthly sojourn. And such an approach will not enhance a Christian wife's efforts to reach her husband for Christ. We should carry every indication that the clothes we wear are not of issue to us.
Kenneth Wuest made a great comment in his Word Studies; "When a Christian woman's appearance appeals to and gratifies the totally depraved nature of the unsaved person whom she is seeking to win to the Lord, she is feeding that person's appetite for sin instead of appealing to that person's conscience. She is confronting that person with the world, not with the Saviour. Such an artificial display also destroys the personal testimony of the soul winner. We may be fundamental in our doctrine, and yet defeat the power of the Word we give out by the modernism of our appearance. It is forbidden because God seeks to glorify Himself in the personality and life of the Christian. He made men in His own image. That image is the ideal medium through which He can reveal Himself. But if that image is marred and distorted by artificiality, it becomes an imperfect medium, and the beauty of the Lord Jesus is hidden beneath a veneer of worldliness." This is not to say that neatness and good taste in dress are to be disregarded. But in clothing her body a woman (or man) must be guided by the principle that her chief adorning is Christ in her soul, "the hope glory"! Her dress must be in keeping with the sweetness and simplicity and purity of her Saviour. Her business is to radiate Christ, to be attractive without detracting from Him! A lady once asked Pastor John Newton what might be the best rule for female dress. His response was; "Madam, so dress and so conduct yourself, that persons who have been in your company shall not recollect what you had on." Clark, in his commentary, made a valuable suggestion; "For every thought given to the beauty of the person, ten thoughts should be given to beautifying the character." A woman who would have a winning way with her man, and with all, must be winsome through the unfading beauty of a godly, submissive character, not through outward adornments. Baubles and bangles and designer threads will not help her. Such will hinder her efforts. She makes a terrible mistake if she thinks dressing like the world will help her reach the unsaved world. Oh beware the terror of non-conformity! True wisdom fears the Lord over man. And consider that while the world places such a high value on the possession and display of gold, God paves His streets with it! He puts it where it belongs – under foot! He views as far more precious what's in a woman than what's on her. The positive adornment of a godly wife is presented in vs. 4,
"But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
The Lord points to two basic parts of a person - the visible outward, and the hidden inward heart or character. He points out what He so often does, that the outward is slowly falling apart, whereas the inward is "not corruptible". Now, again, the Lord is not encouraging us to despise outward beauty, but simply to invest no stock in it. As Proverbs 31:30 assures us,
"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised."
The Lord is advising a much heavier investment in the inward than in the outward. A man is unwise to invest for the future in depreciating items (car, boat, etc.) – crumbling things that will never hold their value. Wisdom leads to investment in things that will hold their value far into the future. Here in I Peter 3:4, the Lord is seeking to channel our investment into the incorruptible adornment of a meek and quiet spirit. Let your earnest focus be there! For this will pay dividends into eternity. This is that which draws the praise of man and God, rather than only the carnal interest of men. For outward appearance can only ever achieve the praise of men, and that only for a brief window period. It is the inevitable lot of men and women that wrinkles and decay and old age spread and hair loss and the aches and pains of deteriorating joints are ever chipping away at whatever outward splendor we might presently possess. But none of these enemies of the outward can ever touch the priceless spiritual beauty of a meek and quiet spirit. Are you really hearing what the Lord, through Peter, is saying to us?
Again, from Kenneth Wuest; "A person ought to be bigger than any consideration of outward decoration. One can dress up a fence post. If one finds it necessary to depend upon either physical beauty or clothing in order to make a favourable impression upon others, that fact shows that that person realizes his lack of those personal and spiritual qualities that make a virile Christian character."
In the only portion where the Lord Jesus Christ ever gave description of Himself (Matthew 11:29), He said, "I am meek and lowly in heart." Such a spirit was a vital aspect of His character as well. What does the meekness of "a meek and quiet spirit" mean? It's the absence of a self-assertive nature. Meekness allows your brother or sister to have it instead of demanding possession for yourself. Rather than flashing to anger, meekness takes harsh words humbly. There is a gentleness and mildness about meekness, that is not weakness. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary, defines meekness in this way; "It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His [the Lord's] dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting." Toward men, meekness quietly accepts opposition, insult, and provocation. It patiently bears the contradiction of sinners against itself. It is the very essence of Peter’s theme in this book - the patient endurance of unfair treatment. It was Christ’s winning way, as we see there in I Peter 2:21-23. It is our winning way as well.
A "quiet spirit", as Vine describes it, is a "tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others". The word translated "quiet" here speaks of a tendency toward silence - not being known for much or loud talking. In the 21 verses of that description of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, we find only one verse dealing with her speaking,
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness" (Prov. 31:26).
Here is the very opposite of the busybody of II Thessalonians 3:11-12. And when Paul spoke of young women who had become widows, he said in I Timothy 5:13,
"And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."
One of the key features of busybodies is their verbal diarrhea. But not so the quiet spirit of a virtuous woman. When she speaks, it will be with wisdom and kindness.
As well, the quiet spirit of a godly woman speaks of self-control. Clark described it as "the unruffled manner, which is calm and creates calm in others." A quiet spirit is not easily flustered. Compare that comment at the end of I Pet. 3:6 - "not afraid with any amazement". This "quiet spirit" does not fall apart in the most trying moments. It does not cringe in fear, being intimidated before scorn or disbelief or lack of sympathy. It is not reduced to a basket-case of nervous excitement. There's an undaunted, calm cheerfulness about this quiet spirit of hers. As Abigail in the face of David's enraged threat to her family, moving calmly, efficiently, knowingly, wisely (I Samuel 25).
"Ah", you say, "but surely this is a personality thing!" No. It's a trust thing! We find such a key descriptive phrase here in vs. 5, "who trusted in God" (compare I Pet. 2:23). How God treasures such a quiet spirit, borne out of a settled, stable trust in Him! It rises above the waves in the storms of life. The gaze of its eyes of faith penetrates the darkest and most fearfully threatening of clouds. Like Peter, it walks on top of the raging waves of the sea, for its eyes are faithfully fixed on Christ, trusting in Him. This priceless spirit which Peter describes is a balanced one, not debasing itself in a groveling, nervous, servile slavery, yet never showing a lack of appropriate reverence.
Peter then strengthens his argument in vs. 5-6 of I Pet. 3, referring to Old Testament examples of godly women who actually lived what he is describing,
"For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement."
These were godly women who did clothe themselves with the meekness of subjection to their own husbands - who were pleasing to their husbands, and to their heavenly Father. It is their honoured society you join when you bow your heart in submission like they, becoming as if daughters of Sara - like her in heart - of her spiritual heritage. For Sara had just such a heart toward her husband Abraham, calling him "lord" (sir, master). She "obeyed" her husband, recognizing him as leader and head over her household. Her submission was a continual expression of her hope and trust in her heavenly Lord. Sara was by no means perfect. The Bible is ever careful to record those details too. But in this reverence of her husband she stands out as a model and leader for women of all ages. She was a leader, not just a follower, in her submission!
The choice is yours, my sister in Christ. Would you be a happy soul? Would you find peace and rest? Would you "love life, and see good days"? Would you be pleasing to the Lord, showing that character which is in His sight "of great price"? Please consider ever so carefully what the Lord is saying to you in these Bible passages we’ve considered together. Please make that ever so vital decision to apply the Lord's eternal words of truth to your own life, if you would walk with Him in joy.
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take
My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find
rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)